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Vietnamese gender roles discussed

Peggy Redman, professor of education, discusses gender differences in the work environment in Vietnam. She explained that women do mainly background and support work for the men in professional environments. Redman, along with Mark Goor, dean of the College of Education and Organizational Leadership, and Barbara Poling, associate dean of CEOL, led a “Women in Leadership in Vietnam” faculty lecture Monday in the President’s Dining Room. / photo by Debora Escobar

Alex Forbess
Staff Writer

Three professors from the College of Education and Organizational Leadership who recently spent time in Vietnam, presented the results of their research on “Women in Leadership in Vietnam” Monday in the President’s Dining Room.

As part of the faculty lecture series, Professor of Education Peggy Redman, College of Education and Organizational Leadership Associate Dean Barbara Poling and Dean Mark Goor shared their work with 30 students, faculty and staff.

The three traveled to Vietnam to research what challenges and expectations women faced in Vietnamese society.

They developed surveys and focus groups for women involved in leadership roles, such as professors, and they asked if their peers take into account the demands they face at home and work.

The speakers said they do, but most of those surveyed follow the phrase, “Quality time with your family is more important than quantity of time.”

“There is a contrast between men and women in regards to leadership,” Redman said. “Women … are limited in taking leadership positions.”’

Audience members were surprised to hear this.

Senior psychology major Monique Guzman said she was surprised with what she saw as parallels between Vietnam today and the United States during the 1960s and 1970s.

“It seems that men and women are still fighting a war,” Guzman said.

President of Culture, Health, Education and Environmental Resources for Vietnam Doan Thi Nam-Hau was also present to give a brief history of the country and how it developed its version of equality.

Vietnam formed its own version of equality based on of other countries – China, France and the United States – that invaded throughout its 4,000-year-old history, he said.

“They invaded and expressed their versions of equality,” Nam-Hau said. “Citizens grabbed the essence of each country and developed what is now Vietnam.”

Before these countries shared their influence, Vietnam’s version of equality was men and women working together, with nature, Nam-Hau said.

The speakers displayed various quotes from the answers they received.

Each message gave the audience an insight into how the country functions.

One quote read, “Gender in Vietnam still has many limitations. There is not yet equality and democracy.”

With the data collected, they were able to notice there were several themes in the answers they were receiving, including family and work roles.

Redman said Vietnamese women are responsible for the well-being of their families while also holding a job that demands their full attention.

She said they also must reflect aspirations for their children to succeed and live a better life than theirs.

“Family responsibilities are listed as a first priority,” Redman said.

The way women in Vietnam are able to obtain a job is to negotiate with their husbands, Redman said.

Men are the ones who grant their wives the opportunity to excel.

One surprise they found in their research was most of the participants in the survey said younger women named college students as their mentors to pursue a better life.

The fact that students are exposed to more resources to live a better life motivates them to do the same, regardless of the obstacles present.

“Younger women with Ph.D.s expressed the desire to help others grow,” Poling said.

Nam-Hau said change is happening in Vietnam, but at a slow rate.

“Deep down, equality is important, but we forget it,” Nam-Hau said.

Alex Forbess can be reached at alex.forbess@laverne.edu.

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